Literature Annotations

Lagerkvist, Par
The Dwarf, excerpt from

Genre Novel (7 pp.)
KeywordsBody Self-Image, Rebellion

This excerpt from the novel, narrated by the court dwarf, gets us at once into his attitudes and prejudices: that he is nobody’s fool and will not act like a buffoon to entertain people; that he admires the Prince he serves but doesn’t really understand him; that he has a huge ego and plenty of defensiveness, as if he were always expecting ridicule. He hates being treated like a child and being forced to play with the Princess, so he takes revenge by decapitating her pet kitten.

In the extraordinary scene where dwarfs act out a communion service, he says, "I eat his body which was deformed like yours. It tastes bitter as gall, it is full of hatred." Then he throws the wine over the Prince’s guests who are watching this entertainment.

CommentaryWhile dwarfs in some stories evoke compassion and pity, this narrator is quite unlikable--full of himself and quick to criticize others. His unrelenting and angry voice bitterly blames those who have hurt him--just about everyone. But he understands a deep psychological fact: that people who are afraid of dwarfs are really scared by "the dwarf within them . . . who sticks up its head from the depths of their souls."
SourceThe Tyranny of the Normal
PublisherKent State Univ. Press
EditorsCarol Donley & Sheryl Buckley
Place PublishedKent, Ohio
Alternate SourceThe Dwarf
Alternate PublisherFarrar, Strauss & Giroux
Alternate Edition1958
Alternate EditorsTranslator, Alexandra Dick
Place Published New York
MiscellaneousNovel copyright, 1945. Translated by Alexandra Dick.
Annotated by Donley, Carol
Date of Entry 04/16/96
Last Revised 08/21/06